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  • Writer's pictureSara Yuen

Has the Pandemic Affected Obesity Rates?

On March 11th, 2021, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic –– and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) quickly began instituting measures designed to stop the pandemic's spread. As countries worldwide wrestled with making the right choices for their residents, many U.S. states enforced varying degrees of lockdowns (through stay-at-home orders). These lockdowns resulted in millions of Americans being stuck inside for as long as 453 days.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Trusted Referral Network has been closely monitoring how it has affected global health– including obesity rates. Surprisingly, we have seen a significant spike in obesity rates in countries that have been hit hardest by the virus. Our team has put together this blog post to explore the possible reasons for this increase and what can be done to combat it.

body mass index, immune system, weight loss surgery, organ system, child obesity, health care

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Potential Causes of Weight Gain During COVID-19 Pandemic

  1. Poor Diet Habits

  2. Less Physical Activity, Increased Stress

  3. Increased Screen Time

Poor Diet Habits

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, one industry struggled –– ride shares –– while food delivery services thrived. Why? Because no one was going anywhere, uncertainty around virus transmission made Americans afraid to shop for groceries, but people still had to eat. While delivery platforms have a handful of healthy options, most restaurants available for delivery are fast food establishments. The lack of healthy food options combined with the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic put increased stress on people, leading many adults to gain weight under stay-at-home orders.

While other factors contributed to the obesity epidemic among adults during COVID-19, many healthy behaviors quickly went out the window. Delivered, processed food at all hours of the day became the norm for Americans.

Less Physical Activity Due to Lack of Gym Access

Although only 23% of Americans meet the defined standards for physical activity, gym visits before or after work are a part of many people's daily routines –– which were interrupted by COVID-19 because gyms, fitness centers, and other wellness programs were shut down. While lack of gym access prompted some Americans to get creative at home or create home gym setups, there were a number of factors preventing others from adopting this strategy. For one, many places with the strictest lockdown protocols were metropolitan areas where space for a home gym is in short supply. Other factors included kettlebell shortages which, paired with increased demand, caused prices to skyrocket.

To make matters worse, many individuals encountered increased stress during the pandemic –– due to job loss, fear of infection, or isolation from family and friends. A recent study showed that four out of 10 surveyed Americans suffered from anxiety during the pandemic versus one in 10 before COVID-19 (please cite the source of this statistic). Mental health and physical health have been shown to be linked, and the increase in anxiety during the pandemic may have an impact on the long-term health of many Americans. Researchers at Harvard analyzing data during the coronavirus pandemic saw that nearly 40% of the 15 million people surveyed experienced weight gain and an increase in body mass index (BMI).

Increased Screen Time

You might be wondering, "what does screen time have to do with weight gain?" Well, according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), too much screen time can be responsible for significant weight gain in both adult and child populations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, screen time for many Americans was at an all-time high –– and could be a key reason why so many Americans gained weight and inched toward obesity during the pandemic.

While increased screen time may not have made a big difference to the American population with lack of access to wellness programs and poor nutrition habits, it is still a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic –– and an indirect contributor to heart disease and cancers.

Combat the Obesity Epidemic with Trusted Referral Network

With restrictions lifted across the nation, Americans can go back to their routine gym visits and healthy eating –– but old habits die hard. It may be challenging for many Americans to lose any weight gained during the lockdowns. However, reducing screen time, finding fun ways to stay active, and sticking to healthy eating habits can all contribute to helping you lose weight. Staying healthy reduces the risk of hospitalization, chronic disease, cancer, or death due to obesity.

Trusted Referral Network has all the resources you need to combat the obesity epidemic and reclaim your health (and life) after COVID-19. Through our network, you can be connected with doctors and specialists committed to helping you overcome the so-called "COVID-15."

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